LOS ANGELES – US golf legend Tiger Woods was recovering in hospital on Wednesday after surgery for serious leg injuries sustained in a car crash that have raised fears for the 45-year-old's career.
Law enforcement officials said the 15-time major champion, who has been plagued by injury in recent years, was lucky to survive the accident in which his car rolled several times.
Woods was driving alone in a Los Angeles suburb on a road notorious for fatal accidents when his SUV crashed on Tuesday morning, with firefighters and paramedics having to cut him out of the wreckage.
His representatives said in a statement on Woods's Twitter account late Tuesday that the golfer, one of the greatest of all time, was "currently awake, responsive, and recovering in his hospital room."
In the same statement, Harbor-UCLA Medical Center chief medical officer Anish Mahajan said Woods underwent surgery to repair "significant orthopedic injuries" to his lower right leg and ankle.
This included the insertion of a rod into his shin bone and the use of "a combination of screws and pins" to stabilize his foot and ankle, the statement read.
Woods recently underwent his fifth back operation and has had three procedures on his knee during a career that has also seen him bounce back from high-profile scandal in his personal life.
In 2019, he completed an astonishing comeback from four back operations between 2014 and 2017 to win the Masters, his first major title since 2008.
News of his latest injuries has cast doubt on Woods's ability to compete at the top level again.
"If he does come back to be a golfer again then I think that would be quite extraordinary," six-time major winner Nick Faldo said Wednesday.
The Englishman added that he thought Woods would first have to focus on rebuilding his body and that playing competitively "is possibly a long way down the line."
Faldo said Woods's age made it even more difficult.
"It's tough enough playing at 45 when you're playing against kids that are 25," Faldo told CBS.
"But after going through this, all we can do is pray for him and hope that he finds a way to rebuild himself."
No other vehicles or passengers were involved in the crash, which occurred on a steep stretch of road known as an accident hotspot, where Woods was traveling at "a greater speed than normal," the Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said Tuesday.
Fellow TOUR players and celebrities have shown an outpouring of support for Tiger Woods.— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) February 24, 2021
Woods did not appear to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol during the early-morning incident, he added.
Villanueva said investigators would determine if Woods may have been using a cell phone while driving or was otherwise distracted in any way.
"Apparently the first contact was with the center median, and from there (the car) crossed into the opposing lane of traffic, hit the curb, hit a tree, and there was several rollovers during that process," said Villanueva.
He did not say what caused the crash.
The car ended up several hundred feet from the initial impact, lying on its side on a patch of grass some distance off the road, with its hood badly damaged.
Deputy Carlos Gonzalez, the first officer to arrive at the scene, said it was "very fortunate that Mr. Woods was able to come out of this alive."
Gonzalez found Woods trapped in his vehicle but conscious, appearing "calm and lucid" and able to identify himself to the deputy as "Tiger."
"It is my understanding that he had serious injuries to both legs," said Los Angeles County fire chief Daryl Osby.
Woods was in the Los Angeles area for his annual Genesis Invitational golf tournament at the Riviera Country Club, and was driving a courtesy car on the morning of the crash.
The crash happened near the hilly Palos Verdes peninsula, at the bottom of a stretch of road which has runaway truck ramps for drivers who lose control going downhill.
The section has become notorious for fatal accidents over the years.
News of the crash spread rapidly around the sports world and beyond, with figures inside and outside golf swift to send their best wishes.
"Sending my prayers to @TigerWoods and his family tonight -- here's to a speedy recovery for the GOAT of golf," said former US president Barack Obama.
Woods was one of the most revered athletes in the world when in November 2009, he smashed his car into a tree and a fire hydrant outside his luxury Florida home, sparking a series of scandalous revelations that doomed his marriage and put his game in freefall.
He later divorced from his Swedish wife Elin Nordegren after a cascade of women came forward to say they had affairs with the golfer, making him fodder for tabloids around the world.
In May 2017, he was arrested near his home for being asleep at the wheel of his car in a traffic lane. Woods said he had taken prescription drugs and pleaded guilty to reckless driving.
He is the winner of 82 US PGA titles, level with Sam Snead for the all-time record.
Woods remains three major victories shy of the benchmark of 18 set by Jack Nicklaus.